Perception is reality; What story is your personal brand telling the world?

James Kouzinas James Kouzinas
Blog | January 12, 2020

 “Branding is about making brands more human, while personal branding is about making humans more authentic” – Cynthia Johnson – Platform

‘Personal branding’ has been perceived as a dirty focus in the corporate world, often associated with narcissism or boasting. This assumption tends to be justified by the overwhelming amount of inauthentic content individuals post on social platforms i.e. LinkedIn. Too often perpetrators post overly self-promotional content or heavily branded content for the sake of ticking a box. As a result we tend to avoid a focus on intentionally building out our own personal brands.

Jeff Bezos (Founder/CEO of Amazon) believes your personal brand is simply “what people say about you when you are not in the room”. What people say about you is justified by the different touch points you leave them with, some of which include:  

  • The persona you display on chosen social media platforms (all of them)
  • Personal interactions
  • Email and written communication style
  • Punctuality and consistency of your communication
  • The structure/existence of your voicemail
  • How you dress, speak and represent yourself in public settings

Personal brand building is a long game and as with many growth-orientated focuses, most notably investing, personal brand growth is compounding. Compound growth has a tipping point, this is the point where you can truly begin to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk is an example of someone who has intentionally built a personal brand. Gary channelled a particular focus on the juggernaut social media channels. Gary reaped the rewards of compounding growth with his aggregate audience now totalling over 20M people (1.5M Tik Tok, 6.9M Instagram, 2.36M YouTube, 3.7M Facebook, 2M Twitter, 3.5M LinkedIn, 298K Medium). In order to meet overarching business and personal goals, Gary leverages his audiences in the following ways:

  • Selling products,
  • Conference Attendance
  • Affiliate campaigns,  
  • Build a global media business, 
  • Organisation of collaborations with key individuals 

The concept of “just google it” applies as much to looking up what is on the menu before you attend a restaurant as it does to conducting due diligence on the people you are interacting with. The internet has gifted everyone the opportunity to search for one another online before deciding to meet for business, jump on a call or respond to an email. Our biologically curious nature drives this behaviour and when there is no footprint to be found we often wonder why. What is this person hiding?

One of the key misconceptions about building a personal brand is that it needs to be all about you. People confuse the idea by only focusing on what they are doing and what they have achieved. Glen Carlson’s Key Person of Influence program is a global operation that guides talented leaders/entrepreneurs on how they can build a successful personal brand. Glen states: 

“Your personal brand shouldn’t be about you… It should be about the ideas and ideologies that you represent.” – Glen Carlson

The goal is to share your expertise with others with a deep focus on adding value through informing and upskilling.

Your personal brand is never a problem until it is one. 

Working within the Australian banking industry during the Royal Commission I was exposed to how quickly the workforce can change. Many people were suddenly aware of the need to have to have some kind of a strong personal brand/digital footprint. I will never forget when many of my colleagues woke up one morning with just weeks left in their long term career-based roles. How well had they prepared to re-market themselves for what is next? How have you prepared? 

In 2019 the average (Australian) tenure in a given role is 3.3 years. – Mccrindle Market Research 2019

The one thing you carry with you as you weave in and out of organisations, build businesses and offer your services through volunteer work is your own one-of-a-kind personal brand.

Many corporate institutions are beginning to focus on how employees who have built personal brands/media channels can be repositioned as advocates for the organisation they work for. These organisations are recognising the positive impact that can be facilitated when employees share daily insights and purposefully develop their own personal sales funnels. Major brands who are leading the way in this domain include: Get your guide, Mastercard and Adobe. 

The results from this mindset shift are quite impressive: 

  • Improved brand visibility as employees often have 10 times as many connections as their companies’ pages 
  • ‘Social media today’ found that 79% of organisations reported more online visibility with active employee-advocates
  • 65% of brands reported increased brand recognition after implementing a formal employee-advocacy program 

The catch with employee advocacy is making sure there is an organic message that doesn’t feel like a huge sales push. 

Over the last two years I have hosted over 400 social media workshops where personal branding and LinkedIn have been a focus. I have collected and answered below a few of the common questions: 

Where do I draw the line between focusing on my personal brand and representing the organisation I work for?

A: I will begin this with two examples you may of heard of: 

  1. Language from Alan Jones about Jacinta Arden (resulting in an advertising revenue loss reaching seven figures)  
  2. Very pointed posts from Israel Folau (even if you personally have no issue with Izzy… your boss might have an issue with your latest figures) 

Instead, you want to be like Richard Branson: everyone knows him, a social-entrepreneur, author, philanthropist who owns his message and proactively contributes towards it. It’s not just Richard: think Oprah, Miki Agrawal, Gary V and Steph Claire Smith.

These two examples in particular have demonstrated how your personal life, opinions and posted content cross over with your professional brand. There is clearly a level of responsibility, accountability and consideration that is expected from the organisation you are aligned to.

Every contract is different, every role is unique and common sense unfortunately does not prevail – ironically it is not that common. The general perception is that your two brands, personal and professional, intertwine. I encourage you to think about public perception whenever you use public platforms to express opinions that may not be aligned to that of your organisation. 

To provide you with the necessary guidance ask your organisation; what is your social media policy/guidelines?

Do I need to measure the impact of personal brand building?

A: Author Ryan Holiday puts this perfectly: if it isn’t measured it isn’t managed! I highly recommend you take the time to:

  • Take note of the reach of your posts 
  • Measure engagement levels 
  • Measure in-mails 
  • Take note of type of people connecting with you and opportunities that result from a focus on your personal brand building
  • Measure growth of your recommendations and endorsements 

For more information on how to measure/track the growth of your personal brand, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally.

I’m busy, is this really something I need to do? How can I ensure it’s an efficient use of my time?

A: Great decisions cost you in the present, but bad decisions cost you in the future. Here are a few examples:

  • The fact that you go to the gym even though you don’t “need” to… is why you don’t need to.
  • The fact that you save when you could spend… is why you have money to spend.
  • The fact that you have been building your personal brand while you have a job or are running a business… is why you have a plethora of opportunities available to you.

Leaders anticipate, losers react. If your personal reputation is a priority, you will make time for it.

How can I work on my personal brand without appearing narcissistic?

A: This is the most important point. This question seemingly contradicts the concept of ‘personal branding’. Your content, your focus and what you communicate should not be focused on you. The goal is to add value and offer insight through your personal experiences. Through this process you will offer valuable inspiration and guidance to the community that are engaging with you.

Those who nail personal branding all deeply understand their personal message and their audience (the community following them, not the people they ‘think’ they are talking to), and most importantly are consistently creating quality content. These individuals are able to enrich the lives of others by having an intentional purpose, rather than subconsciously ‘making noise’.

I will leave you with a relevant and powerful message from Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond our measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Rebecca Jones

Director of Platform

Nebula Ventures

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